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Complete Rum Guide: Everything You Need To Know About Rum

This comprehensive article will go over everything you need to know about Rum. You will learn unique terminology, the background on how it’s made, different styles of rum, and some of our staff’s top picks!

Sit back and enjoy the rest of the article, cheers!

What is Rum?

bottles of rum on a shelf.

Rum is a distilled alcoholic drink produced by fermenting sugarcane molasses or sugarcane juice then distilling it. The finished product is a clear liquid distillate, this is commonly aged in wood oak barrels.

When Rum is produced it is categorized into various ‘grades’. Light rums are typically used in cocktails whilst “golden” and “dark” rums are drunk in a variety of ways; either straight or neat,  iced (“on rocks”) or used to cook.  In recent years they have started to be commonly consumed with mixers.

Furthermore, there are also high class ‘premium’ rums. These are designed to be consumed either straight or on the rocks.

History of Rum

barrels of rum, learn the history of rum.

Rum has a very interesting history to it. Being made famous by the ‘pirate’ era where it was commonly consumed as “bumbo“. Many sailors in the royal navy enjoyed a drink called “grog” which was rum mixed with either water or beer.

The majority of rums are produced in the Caribbean and American countries, it’s also made in other sugar-producing countries,  such as in the Philippines and India.

The culture of most West Indian islands, The Maritimes, and Newfoundland are all influenced by Rum. Rum has also served as a popular economic exchange medium for the support of firms such as slavery, organized crime and military insurgencies, such as the American Revolution and the Australian Rum Rebellion.

What is Rum’s Proof?

For those who don’t know, the proof of liquor indicates the alcohol percentage. “Proof” originated in the 18th century from soldiers dousing the gunpowder in the alcohol and if the liquored-gunpowder ignited it was “proof” the alcohol content was high enough. The proof is always double the ABV (alcohol by volume). Generally, Rum is around 80 to 90 proof which is 40-45% ABV. So if you have a bottle of rum that’s 40%, that must mean the proof is 80.

Usually, when buying rum in the liquor store, it is around 30% ABV which is comparable to vodka, whiskey, tequila or other standard liquors.

How is Rum Made? Step by Step

learn how rum is made, distilling rum.

Step 1: Rum can be washed using a few different methods, but we will be explaining the traditional way. For production, you will need a sugarcane plant. Unsulphured molasses (which is derived from refining the sugarcane plant) is the key ingredient when producing rum, although you can use raw cane sugar or sugarcane juice if you don’t have molasses. Other ingredients included in the wash are water and yeast.

Step 2: The next step is fermentation, which will be done differently depending on the ingredients used in the wash. A wash made with molasses will need around 13 days to ferment, whereas a wash made with raw cane sugar will need about 3-7 days to ferment.

After the fermentation stage, you will need to separate any solid material from the wash, otherwise, it will lead to headaches. This can be done using a strainer (preferably a cheesecloth).

If your an advanced distiller then you are going to want to test your pH and make sure it is around 4.5 to 5.0. You can use citric acid to bring the pH down and calcium carbonate to bring the pH up.

Step 3: Now it’s time for a very important step, distilling your elixir. Using a siphon (recommended, as to prevent sediments from spoiling your rum), pour your wash into the still and continue with the distillation process.

Step 4: This part of making the rum is the most difficult and should be done with accuracy to ensure quality. First, you’re going to separate the foreshots from the barrel, that are very dangerous and can cause blindness, which is the first 5% of the run. Second, you’re going to separate the heads from the barrel, which is the next 30% of the run as it is just as dangerous. Third, you’re going to isolate the hearts, which is the next 30% of the run. This is the cream of the crop and the part you are going to be aging in the final step. The last 35% of your solution is the Tails and should not be consumed.

Some distillers re-wash the Tails in order to extract a little extra elixir from the run.

Step 5: Depending on the result that a distiller wants, they will age their rum in different styles. Using a wooden barrel will make it dark, whereas a steel barrel will not darken it at all. Also, an older barrel will create a richer flavour, while a new barrel will create a lighter flavour. There are many factors to consider when aging. Before beginning the aging process, be sure to dilute your distillate to 50%.

Here is a video on how rum’s made!

White Rum should be diluted to 45% using water, and then left for 3-4 days to balance flavours. Using a steel barrel will age rum without darkening it.

Dark Rum should be aged for around 6 to 18 months depending on the desired taste. Using oak chips will produce a unique flavour.

Spiced Rum can be composed by adding additional flavours/spices being vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, citrus and many more.

Different Styles

multiple glass bottles of rum.

There are three main different styles of rum which are White, Dark, and Spiced.

White rum has a lighter taste and is made by aging it for only a few days, generally 3-4, but differs depending on the desired outcome.

Dark rum has a stronger taste than white because the aging process is much longer and some distillers like to use oak chips or other substances to enhance the flavour. The aging process can range from months to years.

Spiced rum can be created from adding unique flavours while aging the liquor. Possible flavours include vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, citrus and much more.

The Most Popular Rum Brands Around the World

a bottle of alcohol and cigar beside it.

Appleton Estate Rum is a Jamaican brand that has an apple flavour and meant to be mixed into a cocktail, not to be drunk straight. It is a combination of several liquors and aged for roughly 4 years.

Bacardi is another rum favorite that originated in Cuba by a man known as Facundo Bacardi. This brand began as white but since it has grown immensely over the years and now has a display of over 200 different brand labels and flavours.

Mount Gay Rum is the world’s oldest commercial booze distillery known to date back to 1703 in Barbados. This liquor has an endless list of flavours ranging from fruity to oak and is one of our top choices.

Don Q Rum is the most popular brand in Puerto Rico and has been around since 1865. Puerto Rico is known to supply the united states with over 70% of their rum.

Tanduay Rum has been recognized as a top-selling brand in the united states since 2015. The reason for their success is their comparative advantage in the aging process which lasts years and is very hard to compete with.

Havana Club is another popular rum that was introduced in Cuba in 1934 and nationalized in 1959 after the Cuban revolution.

The Real McCoy rum originated in the ’20s and is named after a famous bootlegger named Bill McCoy who would sail from the Caribbean to New York City in a ship full of booze to bootleg. This liquor is single distilled and has no added sugars or flavours.

Captain Morgan is also a very popular spiced rum that is produced by British alcohol conglomerate Diageo. It originated in Jamaica and is named after a Welsh pirate named Sir Henry Morgan who died in 1688.

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